Convincing victory for Southampton Solent
Over 22-29 October, 14 university teams, representing countries from around the world gathered in La Rochelle for the 30th Student Yachting World Cup.
SYWoC is an annual event organised by the Association Sportive de l’École Polytechnique and hosted by a different French port each year and is sailed in a charter fleet of equally matched Archambault Grand Surprise 32s. Only one team per county can qualify for SYWoC and this year teams came from as far as Japan and West Coast of America. England was represented by a team from Southampton Solent University who qualified by winning the British Student Yachting Nationals back in April.
On the Saturday, strong winds prevented the practice race from going ahead, but gave the crews time to prepare their boats and move them to their home for the week, in the centre of the historic walled harbor in the centre of La Rochelle. After this, all teams were able to enjoy an evening testing the culinary delights from other countries, at the “crews meal”, where each crew brought a national dish to share with the other teams. English bangers and mash went down well!
The first windward-leward race got underway the following day, with the French winning, but a second race was abandoned because of dying breeze. A sea breeze filled in for a third race in the afternoon, with the Portuguese taking line honours.
A good 15 knot breeze the following day, allowed all three scheduled races to be completed. Two windward leeward courses allowed the Swiss to top the leaderboard, having won the second race, with the Italians winning the first. A second in each race pushed England up to third overall. The third race of the day was a two hour coastal race, which the Swiss won, followed by Portugal. England finished sixth on the water, but a delay by the race committee in hoisting the individual recall flag resulted in them being awarded redress.
A sunny day greeted the competitors for the third day of racing, with the English taking line honours in the first race, closely followed by Italy, making it close at the top between Switzerland, England and Portugal. USA had a good second race of the day, posting their highest result yet, a second, behind Switzerland. The afternoon saw the coastal race being abandoned for lack of breeze. At this point, England was top of the leader board, closely followed by Switzerland, three points behinds, which paved the way for some close competition between the top three boats.
The fourth day saw 10-12 knots for a coastal race, under the dramatic 3km Bridge that connects Île de Ré to the mainland. A gybe-set at the top mark saw England convert a fifth to a first, with Switzerland behind. On the final tack into the line, Englands starboard pushpit sheared in half whilst the crew were hiking off the rail – luckily the crew managed to stay onboard, and they held on to their lead across the line! After extensive lashing the repair job held up for the following two races of the day, but Switzerland bounced back and overtook England in the overall rankings, by winning the second race of day. The battle was on between these two countries, and with England first and Switzerland second in the final race of the day, there was only 1 point separating them going into the next days racing.
The penultimate day of racing was slow to get started, owing to fog holding crews ashore until 1400. Once it cleared, and the sun came out, the Canadians enjoyed the light winds, winning the race. The exciting aspect of this race was further down the fleet, with England and Switzerland playing the numbers games, with England pushing Swiss down the fleet to ensure with the resulting discards, that they were tied on points. The evening saw the 27 mile, five hour night race won by England, to consolidate their efforts during the day, so they topped the leaderboard, with the Swiss 3 points behind after their 4th in the night race.
Going into the last day, in order to for Swiss to win, they had to finish in the top 2, and England outside the top 5. Big breeze and waves provided an exciting setting for this final battle, in which the jury ruled no kites and only Code #2 jibs were to be used. The Southampton Solent Team making the most of the conditions, had a good start, and maintained a lead all the way round, to win the race, and win the championship in convincing style! Switzerland finished 4th, claiming second overall, and Portugal in 3rd.
Overall, it was a great week of sailing, that was well organised, and provided some fantastic racing – many thanks to Association Sportive de l’École Polytechnique, Société des Régates Rochelaises, and all competitors!
Southampton Solent University (England) crew: Peter Cowell, Heather Slater, Kate Macgregor, Sam Peters, Jim Moore, Ben Pym, James Ellis, Guy Jackson